Who's The Ace?

So, we're more than half way through the Braves season, and one question is coming to mind, other than how deep the Braves will go in the playoffs this season, who is the ace of the rotation?

On the Braves starting pitching staff, we've got Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and Brandon Beachy (with the occasional prospect Julio Teheren and Mike Minor start).

[caption id="attachment_208" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Braves pitching prospect Julio Teheren"][/caption]

Obviously, Julio Teheren isn't the ace, but he has the potential to be an ace in the near future, once he gets a regular starting role in the Braves rotation, but for now, he's just an extremely good AAA pitcher (like Mike Minor). He put his stuff up against the best in the MLB, pitching (in a close loss) against the Phillies May 7th, 2011, a game I was in attendance for. So, we know he's got the stuff, the problem is finding a spot.

[caption id="attachment_211" align="aligncenter" width="576" caption="Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy"][/caption]

Brandon Beachy isn't the ace either, only because he hasn't pitched enough. Beachy, 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA, had a bad outing last start, but overall, he's been keeping the Braves within striking distance, which is exactly what a young pitcher needs to do to stay in the big leagues. He will be up here for the long haul I believe, leaving little room for the talented Teheren and Minor.

[caption id="attachment_210" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Derek Lowe"][/caption]

Derek Lowe is by no account the ace of the Braves. At 6-8 with a 4.49 ERA, Derek Lowe continually gives up chunks of runs, but surprisingly, the Braves offense keeps him in the game. He's always been known as clutch pitcher though, so when October comes around, he's always there with a quality start, so it's tough to say he's detrimental. If the Braves get to the playoffs, I can definitely see Fredi Gonzalez leaving Lowe off the roster, like Barry Zito was last year on the Giants (remember how that turned out). Also, he's a great hitting pitcher, which will come in handy in the playoffs. So, if Lowe ends the season with more than 15 wins, I believe he'll be on the roster, but let's get there first.

[caption id="attachment_212" align="alignright" width="249" caption="Tim Hudson"][/caption]

Tim Hudson may be the ace, but I'm not sold. Granted, he is an amazing pitcher and would probably be the ace on many other teams. Over the past 3-4 years, I'd have to say that Hudson was the ace, because he's constantly been productive since he came from Oakland. The guy has lights out stuff. At 9-6 with a 3.39 ERA, Tim is having a good season. With his recent fall off the mound (hilarious) and 2-run homer, Tim Hudson is showing everyone that he belongs, and is still an elite 2-way threat in the MLB.

Tommy Hanson may be the closest thing to an ace, without being the ace. He's pitched well in the past two years and is one of only a handful of pitchers in history to win 10+ games each of their first 3 seasons. With his Paul Bunyan beard and tall frame, Hanson has been hacking down batters all season, and has racked up 124 strikeouts, and an 11-5 record, with a 3.06 ERA. But he isn't the ace. If this next guy wasn't on the team, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better pitcher in the league.

This brings us to one of the best pitchers in the MLB this year.

[caption id="attachment_214" align="aligncenter" width="594" caption="Jair Jurrjens"][/caption]

Jair Jurrjens, riding the coattails of former Braves star Andruw Jones' success out of Curacao, has blazed a path for the Braves to get to the playoffs. Jurrjens' 12-3 record with a 2.44 ERA, has the Braves ace at the top of his game. This comes as a surprise to many folks outside of the Braves community, but as you know, he pitched this well in 2008 and 2009, and pretty well last year too. He's been dominant with his two-seam fast ball and has hitters constantly guessing where the pitch will be. Even if the hitter knows what the pitch will be, they can't get a good bat on it, leading to his stellar ERA. Although his last two outings haven't been good, he will rebound and keep the Braves on track to stay with the Phillies in the NL East, and in the lead in the Wild Card.

This rotation is sure to bring the Braves victories for years to come, whether it's Jurrjens, Hudson, Hanson, Teheren, Beachy, or even Lowe, the Braves have found a way to continue their pitching prospects on the upward path, towards greatness.

For Chats Sports, I'm Ean Dunn

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